Do you look forward to the end of the day or do you welcome the week-end so you can recover? “I will feel better then, once I take that vacation!”
Or are you hypercritical often thinking things like: “I should be further in my career?” “I should have done more?”
Well if you do, then my friend, you may suffer from “destination addiction” ..
The other day I was browsing Instagram (Instagram is my happy place, #dontjudge), and a post caught my eye: “Beware of destination addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” This resonated with me so strongly, that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
The term “destination addiction” was first used by Dr. Robert Holden, a British psychologist. He describes it as follows:
“People who suffer from Destination Addiction believe that success is a destination. They are addicted to the idea that the future is where success is, happiness is, and heaven is. Each passing moment is merely a ticket to get to the future. They live in the ‘not now’, they are psychologically absent, and they disregard everything they have. Destination Addiction is a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is somewhere else. We suffer, literally, from the pursuit of happiness. We are always on the run, on the move, and on the go. Our goal is not to enjoy the day, it is to get through the day. We have always to get to somewhere else first before we can relax and before we can savor the moment. But we never get there. There is no point of arrival. We are permanently dissatisfied. The feeling of success is continually deferred.” (Source article can be found here)
Do I have your attention yet? If this sounds familiar to you, then read on. Holden goes on to define some key symptoms that may sound even more familiar, such as:
* “Whatever you are doing, you are always thinking about what comes next.
* You cannot afford to stop because you always have to be somewhere else.
* You are always in a hurry even when you don’t need to be.
* You always promise that next year you will be less busy.
* Your dream home is always the next home you plan to buy.
* You don’t like your job but it has good prospects for the future.
* You never commit fully to anything in case something better comes along.
* You hope the next big success will finally make you happy.
* You always think you should be further ahead of where you are now.
* You have so many forecasts, projections, and targets that you never enjoy your life”.
It can sound a bit like this:
“When I can take this vacation, I will feel better!”
“When I have reached this position, I will have made it!”
“When I earn X EUR I will be happy!”
Now although I could also not find any peer-reviewed scientific literature on destination addiction, I instinctively feel this concept as a very helpful impulse for thought! With me, destination addiction presented itself in a specific way: I always set new goals (which as such is not a bad thing), but I never stopped and enjoyed the things I had achieved. I never felt proud of my accomplishments and I was generally not very happy (although other factors played their role!)
So I strived towards some of the more classic goals of our society: education, respect, success, money, status… I thought these goals would ultimately lead to me being happy and content! But then something happened that I am sure you can relate to: I always set new goals – I was never happy.
I needed to do more. I never paused and appreciated the achievements I had made, it was all not good enough. No matter which goals I reached, I always set new ones! In my head I always thought that I haven’t achieved enough yet. And even if someone stopped to congratulate me on my accomplishments, I didn’t accept these compliments because you know…they can’t see that I am not as good as they think, and they are wrong (#impostor). I think I (and I am convinced most of you too, especially women) am a destination addict coupled with a healthy dose of impostor syndrome!
So what to do? How do you stop beating yourself up about the past hoping the future will be better?
Well here are 4 habits I changed to work against “destination addiction”:
Just stop (and smell the roses):
Destination addiction is hard to overcome, especially since it has been ingrained in your way of thinking since childhood! Just how are you supposed to balance a decent amount of ambition, anticipation and drive with a healthy amount of deceleration and pride in your accomplishments? It’s not as hard as it may seem..just stop for a minute and take pride in what you have done, enjoy that meal, enjoy that concert and certainly don’t be too strict on yourself! You need to try and consciously pull yourself back to the present (Robert Holden)
I personally try to stop, breathe and take in my surroundings at least once a day. I also try to focus on just one thing at a time like cooking or writing an article. And just yesterday, I listened to a concert of two guitarists and I managed to be just in that moment for a while. Instead of speeding through life always wanting more, try to take a look at what you have! And this leads me straight to my second point..
Readjust your understanding of success
My PhD supervisor once told me it is not about how far you get in your career, but it’s about your personal development. Not every scientist will be a university professor or big shot CEO. And that’s fine! Get rid of the thought that if you don’t end up in a senior position earning large lumps of cash, you will have failed! Stop comparing yourself to others and try and distance yourself from societal standards: will that pay check make you important? Or will that new car make you happy? (Funnily enough: marketing totally plays with your destination addiction: get this new car and you will be happy/respected/admired!)
That hierarchy of professional success is crumbling anyway with the millennial and following generations striving toward more personal development and success as well as a healthy work-life balance!
Ask yourself: what are your goals in life? We tend to do these re-evaluations when tragedy strikes in our lives: what is important? Money? Time? Relationships? In a slightly morbid exercise: imagine you would die now, what would you regret?
I myself have been readjusting my priorities recently and it is helping a lot! When starting to start this blog, the hardest part though was to ignore other people’s opinions. It is also hard to always know and define what you want, I started by already recognizing what I don’t want!
Get in touch with your inner kid
We don’t develop destination addiction until we are taught to always want more. As a kid you live in the now (also because there are people taking care of such things like bills and food 🙂 ), but the essence remains: try and see things through your younger self’s eyes – what made you happy as a kid?
I, for one, was always creative in some way – I enjoyed music and I sang a lot. One passion I forgot about or grew out of was dancing..I danced throughout all my childhood and teenage years and besides feeling good about reaching a certain level of skill as a dancer, I always enjoyed how I could express myself by movement! Yet I followed an educational and professional path that did not reflect this huge part of my personality (because I thought I had to), so I am trying to rediscover it now!
Decide to be happy
No one will hand it to you and it is certainly not dependent on a goal you set yourself. You will only be happy when you decide to be – not if your happiness is coupled to a condition. You will not be happier if you change something or someone in your life, you need to look inward first. That doesn’t mean that change won’t make you happy, only if it is a behavioural pattern that you are constantly seeking change in order to be happy. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean you may not be happier if you change something in your life, but the drive needs to come from within & your happiness should not be dependent on that change but on your inner stance/attitude. Not “this will make me happy” but rather “I will make myself happy”.
My first step was to realize I was a destination addict. Then I tried to stop swimming with that stream that are societal expectations. Study, work, buy, procreate –only with these “badges of honour” will I be considered something, will I be “worth” something. Only then will I be happy.. “Is this what I want or do I want what I think will impress everyone else?” (Toya Sharee)
But even with the blog I fell into the “destination addiction trap”. I was thinking: the blog is just successful if – I can live of it, I earn so much money, I have so many followers. But that is exactly the point..
There will never be a moment where I can say:”I made it”, now everything will flow on it’s own.. With this endeavor I will never get to that final destination! I will always want more! My happiness and my feeling of satisfaction where permanently somewhere in the future. And that is when I realized: I already started my journey a long time ago. My change in direction has already been a success: it has helped me on my journey of personal development and opened my eyes to a certain life of mindfulness and self-appreciation. Now I try to live in the now all the while keeping a watchful and smart eye on the future.
Setting new goals is as such not a bad thing. But always having that thought in mind that you will only be happy when that next goal is achieved is not as productive as it may sound.
Because you are missing it.. as cliché as it may sound: the path is your true destination. Stop waiting for your life to start.
References and further reading:
Mark D. Griffith, PhD, “The Search For Happiness – A brief look at ‘destination addiction”
Robert Holden, “What is destination addiction?”
Connie Mann, “Beware of “destination addiction”
Article by Myriam Visram – milly.at